Thursday, September 30, 2010

Poll on religion finds ignorance

A new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.

The survey released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared with largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.

Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions.

Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers and Catholics followed with about 15.

Level of education was the best predictor of religious knowledge.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Origins of the Bible

Although I have been doing the same thing, in searching out the origins of the Bible, this is not my work. It did not get a lot of discussion at the original post site, so I am reposting to see how others think about this subject.

After discovering the actual fraudulent beginnings for the Book of Mormon I have become very curious about other religions beginnings. The Bible, because of its relationship to Mormonism, particularly intrigues me. The actual orgins are fascinating.

As I have been reading over the last year or so something occurred to me. The Bible is actually a result of the geographic location of the Canaanites at the crossroads of three continents. The Bible originated with the Canaanites who gradually morphed into the Israelites sometime between 400-700 BCE. The stories in the Bible are collections of older myths from the surrounding cultures. Those who originate from that region possess DNA that indicates they intermixed with the many groups of people who traversed the lands they wandered for centuries.

"While the Jews of today are connected historically and religiously to the Jews of ancient Israel, the DNA evidence also indicates that a significant amount of Jewish ancestry can be traced directly back to their Israelite/Middle Eastern ancestors. However, these ancestors represented a heterogeneous mix of Semitic and Mediterranean groups, even at their very beginnings. The Israelite Kingdom arose in the 11th century BCE in an area between modern-day Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Current archaeological evidence indicates that the Israelite kingdom arose out of the earlier, Bronze Age Canaanite culture of that region, and displayed significant continuity with the Canaanites in culture, technology, language and ethnicity (Dever 2003, pp. 153-154).

While the Canaanites were a Western Semitic people indigenous to the area, they appear to have consisted of a diverse ethno-cultural mix from the earliest times. It is from this diverse group that the evolution of the Israelites occurred. Although little is known about these groups, they probably included some of the following populations:

1. Amorites: Western Semites like the Canaanites. They were probably the pastoral nomadic component of the Canaanite people.
2. Hittites: A non-Semitic people from Anatolia and Northern Syria.
3. Hurrians (Horites): A non-Semitic people who inhabited parts of Syria and Mesopotamia. Many kings of the early Canaanite city-states had Hurrian names.
4. Amalekites: Nomads from southern Transjordan. Even inimical references to this group in the Hebrew Bible "tacitly" acknowledge that the Israelites and Amalekites shared a common ancestry.
5. Philistines: Referred to in ancient texts as "Sea Peoples." They invaded and settled along the coasts of ancient Canaan. Their culture appears to stem from that of Mycenae.

(Dever 2003, pp. 219-220)."

"As far as we can see on the basis of the archaeological surveys, Judah remained relatively empty of permanent population, quite isolated, and very marginal right up to and past the presumed time of David and Solomon, with no major urban centers and with no pronounced hierarchy of hamlets, villages, and towns." -- p. 132

"There is no trace of written documents or inscriptions, nor of the Temple or palace of Solomon, and buildings once identified with Solomon have been shown to date from other periods. Current evidence refutes the existence of a unified kingdom: "The glorious epic of united monarchy was -- like the stories of the patriarchs and the sagas of the Exodus and conquest -- a brilliant composition that wove together ancient heroic tales and legends into a coherent and persuasive prophecy for the people of Israel in the seventh century BCE" (p. 144).

"...most of the Israelites did not come from outside Canaan - they emerged from within it. There was no mass Exodus from Egypt. There was no violent conquest of Canaan. Most of the people who formed early Israel were local people - the same people whom we see in the highlands throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages. The early Israelites were - irony of ironies - themselves originally Canaanites!"-Finkelstein and Silberman

Numerous encounters over several centuries led to the adoption of other cultures myths and intertwining these myths into a loose collection. The occasional traveler probably stayed and the occasional Canaanite probably left with the travelers.

I personally find the actually origins more interesting than the mythical tales. It is actually a reflection of the evolution of most cultures around the world. Isolation is actually VERY rare in the course of human history.

One comment

This is important info that hundreds of millions of people need to read and become familiar with. I think it is very cool that archaeologists are bravely finding and telling the truth about these Bible-based myths, golden calves and shibboleths. Maybe in the future the planet can actually become free of the concept of "chosen people", "god's favored children", etc..

I'm really glad that this work is being done and published to the world in my lifetime. Coming to understand how scriptures are written and edited within cultures and societies has been liberating for me. The "Bible veil" is beginning to wear exceedingly thin, and may soon tear away from the mass mind altogether. I look forward to a freer world for our descendants